Reflections of a Fly Rod by Mark Usyk

It’s only 6 and a half feet of graphite and a handful of cork. It’s such a simple thing, not a complicated device by any means. Practically a stick in the simplest of descriptions. Yet to really immerse myself into the backstory of how this all came about, of what it does for my mind, of the things I feel when I stand at the water, of the things I don’t feel because I stand at the water, it stirs up more questions and answers that lead to still more questions and answers. And so I may start to see that if there’s really no meaning to life, if by some chance we weren’t each put on this planet to do something specific, then the odds of falling into something that feels like just that, that it’s what you’re meant to do, they must be so small and remote in such a vast time and place that it seems proof enough that there must be a master plan for my life somewhere. The meaning of life is in my grasp, literally at my fingertips.

Just like an old friend, this rod’s traveled many a back road with me as I worked far from home for a living, as well as specifically setting off in search of the wild Trout that call the Adirondacks their home. The rod may weigh no more than ounces, but the water and dirt that’ve clung to it, the fish slime that has dried on the handle, and the memories attached to it all add up to what would be a great weight if it was a sad thing. But instead, each time I feel its lack of heft, its perfect balance and the smooth cork in my grip, a great weight is lifted. Just like an old friend, its company is always welcome, and the reminiscing begins simply at its sight or even mere mention in conversations. We’ve been through a lot together in a short time, this rod and me, and none of it short of great days and wonderful stories. Fish or fishless, the stories are more proof that perhaps we are meant to do something specific after all.

It’s got some scratches, it has scars, each one like a sentence in a story helping to tell the great tale. But this one is my tale. Everyone has their own tale to tell, but the cover of my book looks different from all the other books on the shelf, because this rod wasn’t built to be set on a store shelf and plucked from a line that all look identical, no this rod was built specifically for me. Like that old engraved shot gun that’s been handed down through the family, the one the next generation waits excitedly to receive, this rod will be a family heirloom should my sons wish to have it.

Brook Trout in remote streams, Browns and Smallmouth from the most beautiful hidden stretch of the Saranac River, Bass out of retention ponds surrounded by looping highway exit ramps, and Perch and other pan fish while waiting for helicopter rides to mountain tops. This rod has seen some of the most beautiful places there are to see in NY State, and been with me exploring quite a few urban waters as well, ignored by locals who wouldn’t think twice to fish such littered and noisy streams and ponds.

A rod built just for me. When it’s all said and done, it’s just a fishing rod to some. To those of us who understand, it’s a way out, or quite possibly… A way in.